What They Say:
Only a pure maiden can have the privilege to contract with a spirit. Priestesses, who can summon spirits from Astral Zero, the world of spirits, and have full command of their power, are called elementalists. Kamito Kazehaya is the only male with this privilege, and due to what happened in the past he comes to Areisha Spirit Academy where priestesses are trained to become elementalists. He is then told that he is to transfer to the school, form a team with priestesses to compete in Blade Dance where the most powerful elementalist is chosen, and win.
Set in 2.0 Stereo in Japanese only, the track had no real issues in terms of standard quality or regarding delays to lip flaps or transition to subtitles. It is quite annoying when there is only one track considering the price however there was no need to change my default settings with the audio so it is more than acceptable, just pretty much standard and that is it.
Video wise, colours were fine and flashy, and no issues in terms of video to audio on a 16:9 – 1.78:1 aspect ratio though set NTSC style with top/bottom wide screen, no problems video wise with subtitles synching, no video freezing or any slack animation when pausing the show and the colours do come out very vividly and look rather good on a Blu-Ray set up – no problems found so overall very strong.
There was no packaging for this test release.
The menus are pretty basic – both menus have a shot of what appears to be the fan service thing for this show of the girls with their lower halves only being shown – both have the same set up which is the episodes list only on the left hand side scrolling down, with disc 2 having a special features tab – there isn’t a Play All so you select episode 1 and that is your Play All (and no audio select as Japanese only though you can manually turn off the subtitles from your options selection whilst watching) – there is a popup menu as is no standard but there is no real point as all you can do is switch episodes – it does its job fine but the lack of anything makes it very basic.
Traditional extras come in the form of the clean opening and ending, and some Japanese promos. We have also available from Sentai which I always questions considering Sentai doesn’t authorise in the UK which always suggest a cut and paste release for the shows in the UK as far as am aware none of these shows are licenced in the UK (though I’d love it if Shirobako was) – the trailers are for Samurai Jam ~ Bakumatsu Rock, Invaders of the Rokujyoma, Shirobako and Momokyun Sword.
The one unique extras are the mini OVAs of the series – most of them are fun little shorts (6 in total) ranging from trying to find a legendary spirit who can make your breasts grow, Kamito trying to hide from the girls at a hot spring, or doing a summon via hotpot, there was one that was legit good where it shows a little of Kamito and Restia in the past (and also showed that Claire and Rinslet were childhood friends, another OVA ironically the breast one also shows how much the two really do care for each other) and I wished there had been more of that in the show itself.
Based on the light novels (Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance), this was a show that went completely under my radar when it came out because it really didn’t seem like my thing – a harem show is never my cup of tea in general, but a few people told me this might be more of a guilty pleasure than anything. There is a really good twist as I found out and the harem is quite well ranged, and dare I say it, the male lead is actually quite interesting, but does it avoid certain clichés of the harem show? Well….is it a bad thing then?
We first get a glimpse of the past in a big battle known as the Blade Dance which is later alluded to something big, with a legendary female named Ren Ashbell defeating a mecha like opponent with ease. We see a lot of future leads in the audience impressed by her, wanting to be like her, etc. Cut to a few years later and we see our male lead Kamito Kazehaya, on the way to the school which trains these fighters known as Areishia Spirit Academy. Only problem? Only girls are apparently allowed as only they can become spirit contractors, so why is he going there?
Well, the answer comes quickly with harem cliché number one: accidentally running into a naked girl. The girl in question is Claire Rouge, a fiery (literally) young lady who has quite the sad past once we learn about here, but for the moment, she is the usual blaze and anger of seeing this boy accidentally peep on her. It does lead to her basically blackmailing/guilt tripping him to helping her as she is seeking an all-powerful spirit (linked to wanting to win the Blade Dance) called the Demon Slayer hence she was purifying herself in the waterfall nearby. Anyway, obvious fan-service aside, the two find the Demon Slayer and Claire with her familiar Scarlet (an adorable fire red cat) try to capture the sword however even though Claire is quite strong, the Slayer is out of control and too much for her. Kamito, unable to stand more, leaps in and is actually able to seal the Slayer himself. Which should be impossible as only females can do this…suddenly why he is going to school becomes more sense, as the headmaster Greyworth has orchestrated this (she also is more influential with Claire’s life as well…) to force him to participate in the Blade Dance for some reason…
Needless to say, a male on an all female campus brings in a lot of hubbub. On one side, there are those who don’t trust him, say he is a pervert, or just flat against it – this is led by one Ellis Fahrengart, the captain of the Sylphid Knights, a group of students who are basically the academy’s guard – she knows that the only previously known male summoner was the infamous Demon King and is at first the most antagonist of the main girls…this of course does change though as she becomes part of the harem (it is kind of spoiled by the opening) – on the other hand, there are those who welcome his involvement, like Rinslet Laurenfrost who is probably my favourite of the main girls – she is the rich girl type and as Claire seems to be her rival (which is really a way to hide the fact she does care for Claire), she is clearly interested in Kamito which of course drives Claire up the wall. This combined with the fact that Kamito’s sword familiar turns into a very cute younger girl with a habit of being mostly naked outside of knee socks (which seems to be this series fetish/fanservice) named Est where the girls get envious of doesn’t help.
However there is more to this series that meets the eye. It is actually quite clever in showcasing small flashbacks with the characters and that there is more to these characters. The two big ones being that Claire is the younger sister of Rubia Elstein who betrayed the royal family causing a ruin of the Empire being burned down by the Fire Lord until Ren Ashbell came along. This is the cause of Claire’s apparent lack of friends and loneliness hence why her relationship with Kamito is a lot more unique than the traditional tsundere archetype. Combined with when we think Scarlet has died, it makes her a lot more likeable and pitiable than it first seems. The second major thing and the big spoiler, is that Kamito is in fact Ren Ashbell. Here, we learn his past with another familiar who seems to keep watch over him throughout the series named Restia, who is the one who taught Kamito pretty much everything. It seems like he was an assassin (which brings Greyworth’s role more important) without feelings and via Restia and later Greyworth became the person he is, yet had to hide the fact he was a male spirit user – hence the legend of Ren Ashbell.
This is when the series combines battles with harem – when a rogue spirit user who is also male and has connections with Restia enters the frey as the supposed reincarnation of the Demon Lord, there are battles which showcase what will eventually become the main team for the most part. Ellis and her crew always try to help but basically only Ellis is ever conscious before Kamito, Claire and Rinslet (who always just so happens to be passing by ^^) arrive to help out. The mystery of Restia, a beautiful young woman with a hint of mischief and danger around her, is one of the series big mysteries as only a small amount of information is ever given about her, which is obviously setting this series for a sequel and Kamito obviously having history with her gives the series an edge of intrigue – Restia even contacts Claire at one point (in disguise) when she thinks Scarlet is dead and to give her a new spirit, which only screws things more but a combination of her and Kamito saves the day. Indeed, the actual battles are action packed, colourful, have to bring in the smarts with using energy as Est whilst powerful, needs to be conservative with energy, and you slowly see the team come together. However, the team is missing one more member…
…and this is where the other side of the story hits – the harem side. The last major character to be included is a girl named Fianna, who is a princess of an empire, who is asked by Greyworth to go under Kamito’s wing as he becomes her bodyguard. The trouble is that Fianna KNOWS Kamito is Ren Ashbell due to a previous meeting when they were younger…which she teases and exploits to no end. Out of the girls, she is the most flirtatious with Kamito which riles up Claire to no end – Whilst Ellis tends to get more flustered and Rinslet is more cool, the problem is that the girl Kamito seems to hold the most affection for is in fact Est, and more in a big brotherly way which causes some more traditional hijinks. That said, Fianna is quite an intelligent character and whilst doesn’t hold any powers at first, when she joins the team she is able to summon – and when you learn her history, it becomes another touching story. And with Ellis also later having quite the backstory, for such a short series, the storytelling is quite harsh for the girls (Rinslet escapes though – her worst is her maid who ‘translates’ everything for her ‘I just happened to be passing by – translation: She wants to join your team…^^)
This is where I have a love/hate relationship with the series. It actually reminds me a bit of Infinite Stratos – a male lead who is the only male that can do something that females can do, and gains a harem because of it. Whilst none of the girls can hold a candle to Charlotte from Infinite Stratos, the actually male lead Kamito is a ton better than Ichika – his story is good, the fact he is gifted but also works hard, which leads to the creation of Team Scarlet, he just suffers from the dreaded thing a lot of male harem leads do which is he doesn’t realise the attention of the girls. Considering how obvious Fianna is and the fact Claire has even kissed him at one point, he still wonders who the girls are making chocolate for in the Valentine’s day episode. It also leads to the inevitable Claire misunderstands something, says she hates him, regrets it, trouble happens but they make up. Whilst a lot more engaging overall, the predictability still hangs over the show.
The evolution of Ellis however actually helps despite her being another girl who at first hates Kamito but eventually gets all blushy around him – she combines strict and firm characteristics with easily embarrassed – however the introduction of her older sister Velsaria, who was the girl Ren Ashbell defeated in the Blade Dance in the introduction, gives her the reason to join team Scarlet. Basically Velsaria has changed a lot in Ellis’ eyes, now stopping at nothing to get stronger, (even blowing up the town just to find something) it leads to the main team of Kamito, Claire, Ellis, Rinslet and Fianna taking her down. It sets up nicely as it is hinted that Restia was involved in Velsaria’s changes and as they head to the Blade Dance in the last episode, she is seen watching over them. This intrigue gives the show tremendous sequel value and whilst there is no word yet on the horizon, there are more novels and manga out so the story is out there for those who want to know what is going on, as there is clearly a lot more out there…
It is strange as for a harem series it is one I want to see more of – the actual storytelling of the past of the girls and Kamito is actually really good for the shortness of the series – it actually feels like the harem parts are really getting in the way. All the girls have their good points – I do feel Rinslet is my favourite despite getting the least amount of backstory ironically – maybe it is just her friendship with Claire and the hilarious combo that she and Carol (her maid) are – but you have the fiery red headhead in Claire, the calm rich girl in Rinslet, the tough but heart of gold Ellis and the flirty but insecure Fianna. Combined with Kamito, the five are set to be one of the best teams out there, and you do want to know what is going to happen to them.
It does suffer from a lot of the tropes that most harem style animes suffer from, a clueless lead despite obvious hints (to be fair, Kamito’s back story makes him one of the better examples of a male harem lead), the misunderstands and violence from the girls whenever a misunderstanding happens with Kamito or when he is being too nice to Est, and when Kamito buys something for Claire for her birthday but she misunderstands and hates him (though it is for a different reason for her anger it still plays out very familiarly). I will admit that a lot of times I did laugh at some of these scenes but a lot of the time I could predict what was going to happen.
It is a shame because the story itself is very interesting, the characters have good backstories and there is a lot of mystery and what could happen with a lot of the characters. I actually would like to see a sequel because behind the harem hijinks is some deep political and family histories which would be brought to life in future episodes – a strange one where a second season is definitely needed as there is just enough interest in the characters to avoid it becoming a general harem show. And that is easily the highest compliment I can give it that it makes me want to watch more.
Blade Dance is a hidden gem in one respect. It is a genre which is quite clichéd and predictable and indeed, the harem and clueless male lead come hand in hand with each other. However, the backstories of Kamito, Claire, Fianna and Ellis all have potential, the comedy can be spot one, and the mystery of certain characters leads this to something of a guilty pleasure for me. The good stuff is really good but it is almost nullified by the generic harem moments. That said, there is more than enough interest for me to wish for a second season especially for the mystery of characters like Claire and Restia. Worth a shot.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening/Clean Ending, Trailers, 6 OVAs
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: May 2nd, 2016
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.